By Dr Maraika Gooding
Mindfulness, with obvious roots in our religious tradition of meditation, is a therapeutic technique that has been spreading rapidly in the field of psychology and health. It promotes the practice of “being present in the moment”.
In the last few years, evidence has been building on the effectiveness of mindfulness techniques in helping persons with a number of difficulties including anxiety, depression and even in physical conditions as it has been found to have an impact on boosting the immune system, associated with fighting off colds, flus and other diseases.
Thinking about the challenges that we face today, we can admit that this is in no small part due to the frantic pace that we have adopted, pursuing the latest and the most modern technology, fashion, obtaining more and more to support a lifestyle that we accept without much thought to its impact on ourselves, on the children who are now growing up and ultimately on the very standard of living we seek to enhance.
What is the difference we need to make our lives better, to ensure our well-being/the well-being of our children? Being mindful of ourselves can lead us to being more mindful of others. Mindfulness calls us to slow down the pace, for a few minutes to take a second and third look, to pay attention to the moments that we often allow to slip by.
Paying attention to the important things and persons in our lives will always take some effort. One of the most frustrating signs of the modern world for me is seeing how little attention we pay to persons in our immediate surroundings.
Even our family events are plagued by the obvious attachment persons have to their mobile phones. Our children who “must have a phone” are staying up at nights messaging and surfing the internet, attending to the views of unknown persons instead of those who love them.
In a recent report on the rising level of poverty in Trinidad and Tobago, the mobile phone featured as an asset for those in the lowest income bracket. Parents and teachers are especially concerned about the behaviour of children but it is essential to consider what changes we need to make in our own practice if we truly desire positive outcomes.
An essential aspect of evidence-based interventions to reduce behaviour difficulties in children and young people is improving the level and quality of attention we are willing to give them.
Attachment difficulties which are responsible for so much of the challenges we experience with behaviour are associated with failure to develop valuable relationships with significant persons at the earliest stages of our development, that affords us the ability to engage in positive relationships with other people in later life.
Whether it is cyber bullying, attraction to pornography and related behaviours, suicide or suicide ideation, eating disorders, oppositional behaviours or hyperactivity they may all tell a story associated with the frenetic lifestyle that we have developed – a lifestyle that is not supported by the additional resources required by parents and teachers.
Our faith in God supports any effort to leave aside some of our distractions for a few hours in any day, to stop and attend to ourselves and the most important people in our lives. Paying attention to the most vulnerable persons is a start.
Become attuned to your own feelings as you observe your child. Reflect on your child’s actions and how he/she may be feeling. Consider these alongside your own. What may be behind the happy or unhappy look, the anger, the unreasonable demands?
Look for triggers and take notes—what preceded the tantrum? As you reflect, you may choose not to react to negative behaviour in predictable ways, with a tantrum of your own. Your child would notice and may even ask you if “something is wrong”. You can admit that you are learning how to pay attention again.
Dr Maraika Gooding is an educational and child psychologist. Her email:firstname.lastname@example.org